The recent discussion about moving the superannuation eligibility age from 65 to 67 brings the spotlight onto ageing once again. This is a relevant debate because the ageing population is a simple fact that cannot be hidden, ignored, or feared. We all age, and when there are more people in a specific age group (cohort) and those people grow older, then this has societal impacts. More money will be spent on superannuation as more people qualify for superannuation. Similarly, relatively less money will be spent on early childhood as fewer people occupy the 0-5 age cohort. This is in itself neither good nor bad. It is simply the reflection of an ageing and changing population and the need to understand and adapt to these issues. It is not about generations competing with each other for resources; it is about what benefits we can all yield from the changes that are occurring.

The challenge for governments and indeed for the private sector is to understand the effects of these changes and look at the respective needs that will emerge and proactively address these needs. When someone turns 65 or 67, do they suddenly want something different? Or do they simply want to be part of an evolving responsive system. If you want to stay in your home longer, how easy is it to age in place, and what can be done to future proof your home so that it is easier to live there longer. Similarly, if you want to continue in employment, how easy is it for employers to understand and respond to the needs of an older workforce? How well designed is that workplace, from both a policy and a physical perspective? Would that workplace benefit from an access audit to better prepare itself for its changing workforce and does it plan to conduct such an audit?
Ageing is not a conscious choice but as medical improvements prevent death from disease, longevity becomes a natural consequence. There is a lot that can be done privately by an individual to assist their chance of living a healthy life, and similarly there is a lot that can be done structurally to ensure society values the ageing population and makes living easy. It is not just about the breaths you take, but also about the moments that take your breath away. It’s about living well.

The potential to better harness the knowledge and expertise of more people with more lived experiences and utilise this additional wisdom to make society a better place for everyone is a significant advantage that should be discussed and embraced. Equally, workplaces and home design need to plan for an ageing society and make the necessary changes ahead of time. This debate will continue, but let’s also understand that as we live longer, we also want to prosper as well.

Reprinted from Lifemark™April Newsletter